At long last, Wasps reach girls hockey final

Valley News Sports Editor
Friday, March 08, 2019

WATERBURY, Vt. — The Woodstock Union High School girls hockey team’s first visit to a Vermont Principals Association state championship game has been a long time coming, and for more than one reason.

As recently as seven years ago, the town had no girls-only program to call its own. Ian Coates got one going, won a couple of youth-level state titles along the way and gradually grew a core group of skaters who revived the high school team.

Coates’ Wasps are now going to UVM’s Gutterson Field House to attempt another first. Riding three-point games from Allie Cimis and Faye Stevens, eighth-seeded Woodstock routed No. 4 Harwood-Northfield, 5-1, in a VPA D-II semifinal at the Ice Center at Washington West on Friday night, leaving the squad one victory from a first state crown.

“We made history tonight,” said Stevens, who scored one goal and set up two for linemate Cimis. “Personally, I don’t know how to feel. I don’t necessarily believe it right now. But I’m beyond excited.”

Cimis added an assist to her tallies for a Woodstock team that has found its stride, particularly on offense, at just the right time. In dispatching No. 9 Hartford and top-seeded Burr & Burton earlier in the draw, the Wasps have scored 17 goals in three postseason contests.

Samantha Yates also had a pair of goals for Woodstock (8-12-3), which will meet No. 7 Missisquoi in Thursday’s title tilt at the Gut.

“We really have a fast team; our wings and our centers are super fast,” Cimis said. “We really utilized that, especially trying to use the whole width of the ice and get as much side power as we could go to get around the defense. That really helped us win tonight, our speed and momentum and intensity.”

Woodstock showed better pace early, but Harwood owned the territory. The Highlanders amassed four quick shots, two from junior Kailie French, but none seriously tested Woodstock netminder Bridgit Black.

When the Wasps struck, they did so quickly. Stevens intercepted a Highlander pass in the neutral zone, feeding Sami Yates down the right side on a two-on-one. With Stevens crashing the slot, Yates pulled her defender wide and ripped a high wrister over the stick of Harwood goaltender Kaylee Thayer at 6:51.

The Wasps were unfortunate not to double their lead with three minutes left in the opening stanza. Lizzy Peck forced a ragged save from Thayer on a right-dot wrister shot, leaving a tantalizing rebound in the crease that Yates couldn’t stuff past the quick-to-recover Thayer.

Woodstock couldn’t hit the locker room completely unscathed, however, with Sophia Yates getting the gate for bodychecking a Harwood wing with 24.2 seconds on the clock.

“It was really hard going into this game,” said Stevens, referencing a preseason loss and midseason tie to the Highlanders (9-10-2). “I think there were a lot of mixed emotions about what was going to happen. For me, having intensity and having everyone hyped and excited at the beginning of the game is really important. And I don’t really think we had that until Sami scored her goal.”

Any Woodstock concerns were erased with a three-goal middle period.

The Wasps held Harwood to a single power-play shot and little zone time on the minor, then went to work racing past the Highlanders’ blueliners. Taking a Stevens feed, Cimis circled out of the left corner to beat Thayer (22 saves) low at 5:49.

Cimis returned the favor at 8:31, setting up Stevens to speed around a Harwood defender for a left-wing conversion. Highlander coach Mike Vasseur burned his timeout at that point and tried to rally his squad, and it worked for a couple of minutes before Cimis scored her second of the night at 11:03, banging home the rebound of a Kendyl Boisvert shot.

Sami Yates and Harwood’s Lilianna Ziedins traded third-period markers, the latter spoiling a shutout bid for Black (18 saves). Rory Livingston and Khara Brettell also posted assists for the Wasps.

Coates isn’t surprised at Woodstock’s fate, not after all of the work over all of the years.

“We are where we’re supposed to be,” Coates said. “We played another Division II team that was ranked very close to us all season long. I thought that it was going to be even closer, but I knew that with how we were playing lately, if we brought that game, we’d see a result like that.

“We got fortunate that everybody showed up and played the way we’ve been practicing this whole year. We’ve been building and building and building, and it’s just been phenomenal.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.